Anti-Israel groups try to remove top ambassador

  • 2a-Ambassador Sisa Ngombane
BAYING FOR BLOOD: SA Ambassador to Israel Sisa Ngombane (pictured), made a contextual - and rather innocuous - remark about three young Israeli boys killed by Hamas in 2014 and so incensed anti-Israel groups in South Africa, that they are baying for his blood. His head may yet roll - however unfairly, as he seems to have walked into what increasingly looks to have been a carefully laid trap...
by ANT KATZ | Oct 26, 2016

Ngombane arrived in the country accompanying “flotilla activist” Leigh-Ann Naidoo, who had been released after a fleeting detention in Israel, when the group’s publicity stunt to “break the Gaza embargo” did not succeed. Ngombane had facilitated her release and accompanied her back.

The ensuing media coverage may leave SA Jewry emerging from their Sukkot media-hiatus confused by headlines relating to Ambassador Ngombane’s remarks.

A perfect storm of events played into the hands of anti-Israel groups and media over the past five days and has led to what may well result in yet another embarrassment for the South African government in its diplomatic relations with Israel, unless carefully managed.

Ten days ago, in Don’t bulldoze me’ Sisa tells anti-Israel activists, Jewish Report showed a video and reported on Ngombane's address at a media conference at OR Tambo Airport after securing the release of, and escorting, Naidoo home.

Dudley - CheryllynACDP member of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco) Cheryllyn Dudley says that “sadly he [Ngombane] did not realise the trap he had walked into”.

RIGHT: ACDP MP and long-standing DIRCO Parliamentary Portfolio Committee member Cheryllyn Dudley

Most of us know the Ambassador to be a man, not only loyal to his country and the government that sent him, but personally supportive of Palestinian freedoms,” Dudley said in an appeal to Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane who will be investigating the veracity of allegations against two South African ambassadors, Ngombane being one.

"Orchestrated trap"

This seemingly “carefully orchestrated trap” triggered the storm of subsequent events. Anti-Israel groups in South Africa immediately started issuing media statements. Among these, were:
  • “SA Ambassador to Israel loses the plot” - claimed Salaamedia;
  • “South African Ambassador to Israel defies SA policy” - BDS-SA said accusingly.
  • “Break off all ties with Apartheid Israel” – urged the MRN’s Ibrahim Vawda in an open letter to President Jacob Zuma;
  • “Ngombane seems to have developed a very close relationship with the Israeli state” – commented former Gazan Haidar Eid in a letter to President Zuma; and
  • “Recall South African Ambassador to Israel” - urged the Media Review Network publishing a link to a petition.

These media statements were quickly taken up by the anti-Israel press and came hot on the heels of another extremely embarrassing event for Dirco; namely revelations that poor prior screening had led them to have to withdraw the security clearance of SA’s High Commissioner to Singapore, Houley Ngubeni, on a prior drug-related issue.

Third event in the storm

The third event featuring in this storm was that both these events were on the tightly-packed agenda of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation’s meeting last week Wednesday which was expected to be attended by the Minister.

State Capture BDS noticeUnable to attend in person, Minister Nkoana-Mashabane delegated her deputy, Luwellyn Landers, to attend.

LEFT: A widely-circulated BDS-SA media release doctored to look like it came from Parliament 

This left the committee disappointed that the minister was unable to attend in person, and a passionately pro-Palestinian deputy minister was thrust into the debate.

On top of it, the meeting over-ran its scheduled time, says Dudley. Dirco officials missed flights and everyone was in a rush to end the day - with the item on the two ambassadors’ issues not yet dealt with.

And so, after a quick briefing and not too much debate, it was agreed that the chairman of the committee, MP Siphosezwe Masango, would “call upon the minister… to investigate the veracity of the allegations reported in the media against SA’s ambassadors to Singapore and Israel”.

Again, this was like a red rag to a bull for the anti-Israel lobby who immediately started bombarding the media again.

  • “Women’s Boat to Gaza (WBTG) applauds call to probe… Ngombane and demands recall” - wrote MRN;
  • “Parliament calls for action against Ambassador to Israel” - claimed BDS-SA incorrectly in a media release seemingly disguised to appear as if it came from Parliament; and
  • “SA ambassador to Israel should be recalled - deputy minister” - News24.

Landers informed only by BDS complaint

While News24 quoted Landers as saying “the department had not made an official decision yet on Ngombane, but that his personal view was that he should be recalled as an ambassador”, he admitted that his understanding of the issue had been informed purely by “a complaint received from Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDS)... saying Ngombane had defied government policy on the Israel/Palestine conflict”.

Despite this, and the fact that Committee Chairman Masango had merely asked the minister to “investigate the veracity of the allegations reported in the media”, Landers said he would try and persuade Minister Nkoana-Mashabane that Ngombane should no longer represent the government of South Africa.

As reported by JR Online in “BDS bullying knows no limits”, the SA Jewish Board of Deputies’ National Director Wendy Kahn wrote: “It was with a sense of déjà vu that the SAJBD witnessed SA Ambassador to Israel, Sisa Ngombane, being shouted down and abused when trying to speak at a press conference. Those bent on demonising Israel at every opportunity cannot bear it when others presume to present a different narrative.”

How could this all happen?

The background material leading up to and post last week's meetings pall into insignificance when seen alongside what followed - which will be reported on once it has played out fully in Parliament today. It is a story of deception and even State Capture by anti-Semitic forces within South Africa.

The full statement on the real Parliamentary Committee

Parliament, Friday, October 21, 2016 – The Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Co-operation, Mr Siphosezwe Masango, has called upon the Minister Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane to investigate the veracity of the allegations reported in the media against South Africa’s ambassadors to Singapore and Israel.

The Committee received a briefing from the Department of International Relations and Co-operation on, among other things, allegations reported in the media against South Africa’s High Commissioner to Singapore, Ms Houley Ngubeni, and the Ambassador to Israel, Mr Sisa Ngombane.

Mr Masango said it was important that the record of those who represent South Africa abroad is above reproach. “South Africa’s image should not be compromised by the same people we send abroad to promote our country. We hope that the Minister will take appropriate corrective actions should the allegations be true,” Mr Masango said.

The Committee has been informed that Ms Ngubeni’s security clearance certificate has been withdrawn.

The Committee further calls upon the Minister to establish whether Mr Ngombane’s reported pronouncements are in conflict with policy on Israel and Palestine.

The justification for reason by Cheryllyn Dudley to Minister:

“While the ACDP appreciates the department’s willingness to respond to accusations regarding diplomats’ behaviour and performance, I would personally like to ask you to please consider the following,” Dudley wrote to Nkoana-Mashabane, adding that:

  • It is the goal of activists to create situations that draw attention to their cause,
  • Activists are known to stretch the truth and to relate only one side of a story to keep the focus on their cause,
  • Activists do not visit countries they want to discredit for peaceful purposes - they do so for the purpose of creating negative attention,
  • Anti-Israel activists are not as angry with the Ambassador as they are with South Africa for having an Ambassador in Israel,
  • Activists would not want the help of the Ambassador to Israel but would want an opportunity to embarrass him in an attempt to embarrass South Africa and the government that sent him,
  • Activists use bullying tactics - they are not reasonable and do not want solutions - they want to prove their point and are prepared to sacrifice all (including Dirco and this administration) for their cause, and
  • Negotiated peace and a way forward have no place in their agenda to impose a narrow view.

“Most of us know the Ambassador to be a man - not only loyal to his country and the government that sent him, but personally supportive of Palestinian freedoms,” said Dudley of the Struggle stalwart.

ANC Ambassador to the EU 

“He (Ngombane) also, however, seems to be a man of principle - a man who is not prepared to have words put in his mouth or to distort facts. Sadly, he did not realise the trap he had walked in to - if he had he would surely have left without trying to finish his statement. My guess is that he was concerned that if he did not finish his statement his words would be twisted to mean something other than what he was saying - an effective tactic used by activists.”

Don’t let the facts get in the way of advocacy

South Africa has always maintained ties with Israel. Then-President Nelson Mandela expanded the presence to two separate embassies, to Israel in Tel Aviv and to Palestine in Ramallah.

State Capture BDS noticeDuring Ngombane’s term, trade between the two countries has grown exponentially - with South Africa getting a larger surplus and not only saving existing South African jobs, but Israeli firms have opened factories in South Africa and created good jobs here.

“Government is fully conscious that they would be cutting off their noses to spite their face,” says Dudley, because maintaining relations with Israel offers the country the opportunity to assist in the peace process.

South Africa is the benefactor of many services provided by Israel as well, says Dudley. She says that when she first watched “that video clip“ she saw the ambassador essentially being “hoodwinked” - it was a trick, she says, “he would have thought he was walking into friendly territory”. However, she does not believe he blamed the Palestinians for the Gaza incursion of 2014.

Asked whether Deputy Minister Landers was quoted correctly by News24, Dudley told JR Online that he was clear that he was speaking for himself. “Fortunately there will be an investigation into the matter,” she says. Landers had confirmed that to her personally.

Landers, she says, has gained the respect of many non-ANC members of Parliament and he makes no secret that he “passionately supports BDS”. Dudley says that she believes the anti-Israel lobby is being misdirected towards the ambassador. “The anger at President Zuma and Dirco in general,” she says, “for having an Ambassador in Israel at all.”

Is there a Government travel ban to Israel as BDS and others have claimed this past week? No, says SA Zionist Federation Chairman Ben Swartz. The ANC has made such assertions (that there is a travel ban); even President Zuma in his capacity as chairman of the ANC has said so. But the ANC is not the government. Dudley agrees: “There is definitely no travel ban from the SA Government to Israel.” She says she has heard people mention it, but as the ANC caucus - not as the SA Government.

Having sat on the committee for longer than Jacob Zuma has occupied the Presidency, Dudley is certainly is no slouch when it comes to South Africa’s foreign policy. And, in representing the only openly pro-Israel party, The African Christian Democratic Party in Parliament, she is a close observer of SA/Israeli affairs.

“South Africa’s foreign policy is very wisely one of refusing to set itself up as the policeman of the world,” she told JR Online. She says if SA had to do this, “we may find ourselves having to cut ties with China, the US, etc. Our experience was in finding each other and we see our role internationally in the same way.

“As important it is for SA to keep relations with all parties, we do not see any solution in a situation where one country would wish to annihilate another,” said Dudley.

Related reads on JR Online




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